Simon Grayson has hailed his unbeaten side’s character and mental strength after they withstood a late siege to secure a point against Sheffield Wednesday.
Grayson named an unchanged team for the third time in six days and he was pleased with last night’s 1-1 draw – though he felt it could have been three had they took one of several chances to extend their lead.
George Honeyman gave the Black Cats a fourth-minute lead, the midfielder showing great composure to finish from 10 yards after being perfectly teed up by Aiden McGeady.
Sunderland had further chances through Lewis Grabban, Billy Jones and Brendan Galloway in the first half, and James Vaughan in the early stages of the second, but failed to take them and Wednesday grew stronger.
David Jones struck a stunning equaliser from 30 yards in the 70th minute before Carlos Carvalhal’s side unleashed a late siege on Jason Steele’s goal, with Gary Hooper hitting the crossbar.
Sunderland stood firm and extended their unbeaten run in league and cup competitions to four games, with the Black Cats sixth in the Championship.
“Without a shadow of a doubt, that side of the game [character] is every bit as important as what we did against Norwich,” said Grayson.
“You have to stand strong and make sure you put your bodies on the line and do whatever is required to win a game or get a result.
“We had to do that. They were kicking towards their supporters and really had a go in the closing stages. They built a bit of pressure, but we withstood things and that is what we had to do.
“I go back to the first half and if we’d got that second goal we would have won the game because I don’t think they would have come back from it.
“You have to be strong mentally and you have to have a team spirit where people will work for each other.
“Any team that has done well in this division has had that spirit and togetherness and have been willing to put their bodies on the line.
“You can’t just play fancy football all the time. There are times when you have to dig deep and this is another valuable point to add to the start of the season.”
Sunderland certainly had to dig deep at a buoyant Hillsborough, with the hosts flooding players forward – with second half subs Steven Fletcher and Jordan Rhodes adding another dimension to their array of attacking talent.
“Overall, it is a fair result,” said Grayson.
“It is a tough place to come and we have had a tough schedule – they have had an extra day recovery from our game on Sunday. You come to a difficult place and get a point – you would take that.
“We are definitely pleased. If you ask any manager whether you would be pleased unbeaten after three games and still in the cup then you would take that.
“We have had a difficult start – with the schedule and the teams we have played to have taken five points from nine we are more than happy.
“I thought defensively we were comfortable right up to the goal, they didn’t ask too many questions.
“They went wide a lot, which we expected, and we wanted to force them down that side of the pitch, given they were playing with a diamond. When the ball went into the box, most people did their jobs.
“I was pleased with the attitude and the defensive units we had right across the pitch.”